Literary [Analysis] Terms

English 10

1. Alliteration is the practice of beginning several consecutive or neighboring words with the same sound. Example: The twisting rout twinkled below.

2. Allusion is a reference to a mythological, literary, well –known or historical person, place, thing or event. Example: To act or not to act, that was Maria’s dilemma. Harriet Tubman was called the Moses of her time.

3. Antithesis is a direct juxtaposition of structurally parallel words, phrases, or clauses for the purpose of contrast. Example: Sink or swim.

3. Apostrophe is a form of personification in which the absent or dead are spoken to as if present and the inanimate, as if animate. These are all addressed directly. Example: Milton! Thou shoulds’t be living at this hour.

4. Assonance is the repetition of accented vowel sounds in a series of words. Example: The words “cry” and “side” have the same vowel sound and so are said to be in assonance.

5. Consonance is the repetition on a consonant sound within a series of words to produce a harmonious effect. Example: “And each slow dusk a drawing-sown of blinds.” The “d” sound is in consonance. The “s” sound is also in consonance.

6. Details are facts revealed by the author or speaker that support the attitude or tone in poetry or prose.

7. Diction is word choice intended to convey a certain effect.

8. Figures of Speech or idioms are words or phrases that describe one thing in terms of some thing else. They always involve some sort of imaginative comparison between seemingly unlike things. Not meant to be taken literally, figurative language is used to produce images in a reader’s mind and to express ideas in fresh, vivid, and imaginative ways.

9. Flashback is a scene that interrupts the action of a work to show a previous event.

10. Foreshadowing is the use of hints or clues in a narrative to suggest future action.

11. Hyperbole is a deliberate, extravagant, and often outrageous exaggeration. It may be used for either serious or comic effect. Example: It is the absolute best literary device ever created by man.

12. Imagery consists of the words or phrases a writer uses to represent persons, objects, actions, feelings, and ideas descriptively by appealing to the senses.

13. Irony occurs in three types. –

Verbal irony occurs when a speaker or narrator says one thing while meaning the opposite. Example: “It is easy to stop smoking. I’ve done it many times.”

Situational irony occurs when a situation turns out differently from what one would normally expect – though often the twist is oddly appropriate. Example: a deep sea diver drowning in a bathtub is ironic.

Dramatic irony occurs when a character or speaker says or does something that has different meanings from what he or she thinks it means, though the audience and other characters understand the full implications of the speech or action. Example: Oedipus curses the murderer of Laius, not realizing that he is himself the murderer and so is cursing himself.

14. Metaphor An implied comparison of two unlike things not using “like” or “as.” Example:Time is money.

The road was a ribbon of moonlight. His ships were the hawks of the sea. Extended Metaphor A metaphor that is continued through several sentences or even paragraphs. Examples: Ronald Reagan compared the government of the United States to a ship of state throughout his speech in an extended metaphor.

15. Mood is the atmosphere or predominant emotion in a literary work.

16. Motivation is a circumstance or set of circumstances that prompts a character to act in a certain way or that determines the outcome of a situation or work.

17. Narration is the telling of a story in writing or speaking.

18. Onomatopoeia (imitative harmony in poetry) is the use of words that mimic the sounds they describe and make you think of its meaning. Examples: “hiss,” “buzz,” and “bang.” How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, in the icy air of night. When onomatopoeia is used on an extended scale in a poem, it is called imitative harmony.

19. Oxymoron is a form of paradox that combines a pair of opposite terms into a single unusual expression. Example: “sweet sorrow” or “cold fire.”

20. Paradox occurs when the elements of a statement contradict each other. Although the statement may appear illogical, impossible, or absurd, it turns out to have coherent meaning that reveals a hidden truth.

Example: “Much madness is divinest sense.”

21. Personification is a kind of metaphor that gives inanimate (lifeless) objects or abstract ideas are made to act and human characteristics. Example: The wind cried in the dark. Love smiled warmly and filled his heart with her soft voice.

22. Plot is the sequence of events or actions in a short story, novel, play or narrative poem.

23. Point-of-view is the perspective from which a narrative is told.

24. The protagonist is the central character of a drama, novel, short story, or narrative poem. Conversely, the antagonist is the character who stands directly opposed to the protagonist.

25. Pun is a ply on words that are identical or similar in sound but have sharply diverse meanings. Puns can have serious as well as humorous uses. Example: When Mercutio is bleeding to death in “Romeo and Juliet,” he says to his friends, “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.”

26. Repetition is the deliberate use of any element of language more than once. Repetition of: Sounds, Words, Phrases, Sentences, Grammatical Patterns, or Rhythmical Patterns.

27. Rhyme is the repetition of sounds in two or more words or phrases that appear close to each other in a poem. End rhyme occurs at the ends of lines. Internal rhyme occurs within a line.

Slant rhyme is approximate rhyme. A rhyme scheme is the pattern of end rhymes.

28. Sarcasm is the use of verbal irony in which a person appears to be praising something but is actually insulting it. Example: As I fell down the stairs headfirst, I heard her say, “Look at that coordination.”

29. Setting is the time and place in which events in a short story, novel, play or narrative poem take place.

30. Shift or turn refers to a change or movement in a piece resulting from an epiphany, realization, or insight gained by the speaker, a character, or the reader.

31. Simile is a comparison of two different things or ideas through the use of the words “like” or “as.” It is a definitely stated comparison in which the poet / author says one thing is like another.

Examples:The warrior fought like a lion. The Cyclops’s eye looked like a huge red lantern, coming closer.

32. Structure is the framework or organization of a literary selection. Example: The structure of a fiction is usually determined by plot and by chapter division. The structure of drama depends upon its division into acts and scenes. The structure of an essay depends upon the organization of ideas. The structure of poetry is determined by its rhyme scheme and stanzaic form.

33. Style is the writer’s characteristic manner of employing language.

34. Suspense is the quality of a short story, novel, play, or narrative poem that makes the reader uncertain or tense about the outcome.

35. A symbol is any object, person, place, or action that has both a meaning in itself and that stands for something larger than itself, such as a quality, attitude, believe or value. Example: the land turtle in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath suggests or reflect the toughness and resilience of the migrant workers.

36. Synecdoche (metonymy) is a form of metaphor. In synecdoche, a part of something is used to signify the whole. Example: All hands on deck. Also, the reverse, whereby the whole can represent a part is synecdoche. Example: Canada played the Untied states in the Olympic hockey finals. Another form of synecdoche involves the container representing the thing being contained. Example: the pot is boiling. In one last form of synecdoche, the material from which an object is made stands for the object itself.Example: The quarterback tossed the pigskin. In metonymy, the name of one thing is applied to another thing with which it is closely associated. Example: I love Shakespeare.

37. Syntax means the arrangement of words and the order of grammatical elements in a sentence.

38. Theme is the central message of a literary work. It is not the same as the subject, which can be expressed in a word or two: courage, survival, war, pride, etc. The theme is the idea the author wishes to convey about that subject. It is expressed as a sentence or general statement about life or human nature. A literary work can have more than one theme, and most themes are not directly stated but are implied. The reader must think about all the elements of the work and use them to make inferences, or reasonable guesses. An example of a theme on the subject of pride might be that pride often precedes a fall.

39. Tone is the writer’s or speaker’s attitude toward a subject, character, or audience, and it is conveyed through the author’s choice of words and detail. Tone can be serious, humorous, sarcastic, indignant, objective, etc.

40. Understatement (meiosis, litotes) is the opposite of hyperbole. It is a kind of irony that deliberately represents something as being much less than it really is. Example: I could probably manage to survive on a salary of two million dollars per year.

SIFT Method of Literary Analysis

Symbol: examine the title and the text for symbolism

Images: identify images and sensory details.

Figures of speech: analyze figurative language and other

Devices Tone and Theme: discuss how all devices reveal tone and theme

Diction (Literary Analysis)

In all forms of literature – nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and drama – authors choose particular words to convey effect and meaning to the reader. Writers employ diction, or word choice, to communicate ideas and impressions to evoke emotions, and to convey their views of truth to the reader.

Deliberate Word Choices Authors Make: High or Formal Diction usually contains language that creates an elevated tone. It is free of slang, idioms, colloquialisms, and contractions. It often contains polysyllabic words, sophisticated syntax and elegant word choice.

Neutral Diction uses standard language and vocabulary without elaborate words and my include contractions.

Informal or Low Diction is the language of everyday use. It is relaxed and conversational. It often includes common and simple words, idioms, slang, jargon, and contractions.

Types of Diction

Slang refers to a group of recently coined words often used in informal situations.

Slang words often come and go quickly, passing in and out of usage within months or years.

Colloquial Expressions are nonstandard, often regional, ways of using language appropriate to informal or conversational speech and writing. The characteristic “ayah” of the Maine resident or the southern word “y’all” are examples of colloquialisms.

Jargon consists of words and expressions characteristic of a particular trade, profession, or pursuit. Some examples of nautical jargon from “The Secret Sharer” by Joseph Conrad are: “cuddy,” “taffrail,” “mizzen,” and “binnacle.”

Dialect is a nonstandard subgroup of a language with its own vocabulary and grammatical features. Writers often use regional dialects or dialects that reveal a person’s economic or social class. Mark Twain makes use of dialect in the following passage from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

“Sho, there’s tics a-plenty. I could have a thousand of ‘em if I wanted to.” “Well, why don’t you? Becuz you know mighty well you can’t. This is a pretty early tick, I recon. It’s the first one I’ve seen this year.”

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1946


Concrete Diction consists of specific words that describe physical qualities or

Abstract Diction refers to the language that denotes ideas, emotions, conditions, or concepts that are intangible.

Example Word: impenetrable, incredible, inscrutable, inconceivable, and unfathomable.

Denotation is the exact, literal definition of a word independent of any emotion associated or secondary meaning.

Connotation is the implicit rather ant explicit meaning of a word and consist of the suggestions, associations, and emotional overtones attached to a word.

Example: The word house has a different emotional effect on the reader than does the word home, with its connotation of safety, coziness, and security.